Social Security Sending Corrected Benefit Notices
The Social Security Administration earlier this month mailed notices that contained incorrect January 2010 payment dates. These erroneous notices went to about 6 million beneficiaries who receive their payments on either the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of each month, and are part of the annual benefit notices that go to 52 million Social Security beneficiaries. In the notice the payment date is incorrectly shown as one week before what the actual date of payment will be. The other information in the notice, including the payment amount, is correct. Social Security is sending a letter explaining the error to beneficiaries who received the incorrect one as soon as possible.
"We apologize for the inconvenience and confusion these incorrect notices will cause," said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. "The problem was caused by an unfortunate human error. We are correcting the misinformation as quickly as possible, and we are reviewing our processes closely to prevent this type of mistake from happening in the future. People receiving Social Security benefits in January 2010 should know that their payment will arrive on the same payment day that it has arrived in the past."
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Commissioner Astrue Asks Inspector General to Investigate California and Hawaii Disability Determination Services
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today asked the agency's Inspector General to investigate allegations that the states of California and Hawaii have recently implemented practices that deny applicants the right to receive full consideration of their Social Security disability claims.
In a memo to Patrick P. O'Carroll, Inspector General, Social Security Administration, Commissioner Astrue writes, "As you know, Gov. Schwarzenegger has insisted on furloughing California Disability Determination Service (DDS) employees, despite the fact that we fully fund both their salaries and overhead. According to Congressman Robert Filner, the State is attempting to find ways to improperly circumvent the effects of the furlough at the expense of some of the State residents who are in the greatest need."
At a hearing before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security yesterday, Congressman Filner (D-CA) testified that the California DDS is denying the claims of disability applicants who fail to return a 25-page report within 20 days – a practice which has been adopted since the institution of furloughs. He reported that one office had closed 30 percent of its cases due to the applicants' failure to return the completed form within 20 days. In addition, he testified the California DDS may be manipulating its service numbers by assigning claims to fictional examiners or supervisors. According to the Congressman, this scheme would allow the DDS to hide the fact these cases are not actually being reviewed.
"I am concerned about the State of Hawaii DDS, which is furloughing its DDS employees for as many days as California, and which has made statements about new business efficiencies that closely track statements made by California officials," Commissioner Astrue writes to the Inspector General. "Accordingly, I ask that you also review that agency to ensure they are also fully adhering to all SSA rules and policies."
The text of Commissioner's Astrue's memo is below:
At yesterday's hearing before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, I testified about some disturbing practices the State of California has instituted that aggravate, rather than help, in response to its budgetary situation. As you know, Gov. Schwarzenegger has insisted on furloughing California Disability Determination Service (DDS) employees, despite the fact that we fully fund both their salaries and overhead. According to Congressman Robert Filner, the State is attempting to find ways to improperly circumvent the effects of the furlough at the expense of some of the State residents who are in the greatest need.
Congressman Filner indicated that since the furloughs began, the California DDS has begun denying the claims of those disability applicants who fail to return a 25-page report within 20 days. This practice, if true, places applicants in an untenable position because the substantial amount of information required must often be gathered from third parties. If an applicant fails to return complete information within the time set by the State, the DDS deems the applicant to have failed to cooperate and closes the file, thereby depriving that applicant of fair and full consideration.
I am also greatly concerned by Congressman Filner's report that the California DDS may be manipulating its service numbers by "staging" claims, assigning them to fictional examiners or supervisors, rather than to actual examiners. According to Congressman Filner, this practice would allow the DDS to claim that the cases have been assigned, rather than indicate that they are still in queue, thus minimizing the effects of the furlough.
If true, these practices are, of course, very disturbing. Therefore, I am asking you to undertake a full review of the practices of the California DDS to determine the scope and breadth of any inappropriate practices.
I am also concerned about the State of Hawaii, which is furloughing its DDS employees for as many days as California, and which has made statements about new business efficiencies that closely track statements made by California officials. Accordingly, I ask that you also review that agency to ensure they are fully adhering to all SSA rules and policies.
Thank you for your assistance.
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Social Security Holds Disability Hearing on Compassionate Allowances and Schizophrenia
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today hosted the agency's fifth public hearing on Compassionate Allowances. Commissioner Astrue was joined by Philip Wang, M.D., Dr. P.H., National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, and Social Security executives. They heard testimony from some of the nation's leading experts on schizophrenia about possible methods of identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for young adults with schizophrenia.
"Schizophrenia is a devastating disease that affects more than two million Americans, primarily individuals in their teens and twenties," said Commissioner Astrue. "The onset of schizophrenia has life-changing consequences, which can include unemployment and homelessness." This hearing will help us to potentially identify the most severe cases and consider bringing them under our Compassionate Allowances umbrella."
In October 2008, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security's standards. To learn more and to view a web cast of today's hearing, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
"Our Compassionate Allowances and Quick Disability Determination processes are making a real difference by ensuring that Americans with devastating disabilities quickly receive the benefits they need," Commissioner Astrue said. "This fiscal year, we expect to fast-track about 150,000 cases and we plan to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes in the coming months."
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Social Security Announces New Enhancements to
Online Retirement Estimator
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the online Retirement Estimator, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator, now can provide immediate and personalized benefit estimates to people who have enrolled in Medicare but have not yet filed for Social Security benefits. Previously, these "Medicare only" beneficiaries would need to contact a local office in order to obtain an estimate of their benefits. Currently, about a half-million people file for Medicare each year and delay filing for Social Security benefits.
"Social Security's Retirement Estimator has been a huge success - with the agency providing over four million personalized retirement estimates to Americans since its launch last year," Commissioner Astrue said. "With more people delaying retirement beyond the Medicare eligibility age, it is critical that they also have access to this easy-to-use online tool."
The Retirement Estimator is interactive and allows users to compare different retirement options. For example, a person can change retirement dates or expected future earnings to better determine the impact on their future benefits and decide the best time to retire. The Retirement Estimator presently is the highest-rated government online service in customer satisfaction and, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index, it exceeds the ratings of private sector online innovators like Netflix and Amazon.
Commissioner Astrue also announced next year the Retirement Estimator will be the first of Social Security's online services, and the first in all of government, to be made available in Spanish. "Social Security serves a diverse population and we already offer services by phone and in-person in a variety of languages," Commissioner Astrue noted. "Offering the Retirement Estimator in Spanish will be an important step in making our online services even easier for everyone to use."
To learn more about the Retirement Estimator go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
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Patty Duke and Dr. David Kessler Team with Social Security in Flu Prevention Public Service Campaign
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that Academy Award winner Patty Duke and David Kessler, M.D., former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have teamed with Social Security to launch a flu prevention public service campaign. Ms. Duke and Dr. Kessler are featured in a new public service announcement letting people know some simple steps they can take to prevent the spread of the flu, as well as the fact that most business with Social Security can be done online by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.
"President Obama recently declared a flu emergency and we want to be sure that Americans looking to Social Security for critical services don't underestimate the value of the simple but important steps they can take to help protect themselves and others from the flu," Commissioner Astrue said. "They should also know if they need to do business with Social Security but don't want to visit an office, they can always go online to www.socialsecurity.gov."
Social Security's online services, led by the agency's Retirement Estimator, online retirement application, and Medicare Extra Help application, have consistently ranked at the top of all government electronic services in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index. The most recent ACSI report released on October 27, 2009 notes that citizen satisfaction with federal government websites surged to a new all-time high in the third quarter of 2009 and some of Social Security's online services surpass those of private sector stalwarts like Netflix and Amazon.
"Patty Duke and Dr. Kessler are doing a great service to the country by volunteering their services to help us get the word out about flu prevention and our online services," said Commissioner Astrue. "I encourage all Americans to do everything they can during this flu season to keep themselves, their families, and their neighbors healthy."
For more information about Social Security's online services and to view the new public service announcement featuring Patty Duke and Dr. David Kessler, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
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Social Security Files Statement of Interest in California Lawsuit Challenging Furlough of Federally-Paid State Disability Workers
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Social Security Administration, has filed a "Statement of Interest" in Union of American Physicians and Dentists v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, which is currently pending in a state trial court in California. The Union of American Physicians and Dentists includes employees of the California Disability Determination Services Division (DDSD), Department of Social Services, who evaluate Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income claims. The Federal government fully pays for the salaries and overhead costs for these employees.
"For many months we have been trying to convince California officials that furloughing DDSD employees does not save the state a single penny, and actually costs the state money. It also unnecessarily harms their citizens with disabilities and their civil servants," said Commissioner Astrue. "Unfortunately, our arguments have fallen on deaf ears. We hope our Statement of Interest will awaken state officials to the irreparable damage their furlough policy is causing."
California's furlough of DDSD employees costs the state $849,000 per furlough day in administrative funding. More importantly, each furlough day results in a delay costing California's disabled citizens over $420,000 in much-needed Social Security benefits.
The Statement of Interest notes that California's furloughs of DDSD employees are inconsistent with the state's obligations and responsibilities under the Social Security Act. Specifically, implementing regulations obligate California to provide adequate facilities and qualified personnel to carry out the disability determination function and, "to the best of its ability, facilitate the processing of disability claims by avoiding personnel freezes, restrictions against overtime work, or curtailment of facilities or activities."
"As Vice-President Biden noted in his recent letter to Governor Edward Rendell, Chair of the National Governor's Association, ‘During these difficult economic times, it is critical that we all do what we can to ease the financial burdens on the American public,'" Commissioner Astrue said.
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Prompt Passage of Economic Recovery Act Payment for 2010 Needed
Law Does Not Provide for a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2010
With consumer prices down over the past year, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 57 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2010. This will be the first year without an automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) since they went into effect in 1975.
"Social Security is doing its job helping Americans maintain their standard of living," Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security said. "Last year when consumer prices spiked, largely as a result of higher gas prices, beneficiaries received a 5.8 percent COLA, the largest increase since 1982. This year, in light of the human need, we need to support President Obama's call for us to make another $250 recovery payment for 57 million Americans."
The Social Security Act provides that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year if there is an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year to the third quarter of the current year. This year there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009. In addition, because there was no increase in the CPI-W this year, under the law the starting point for determinations regarding a possible 2011 COLA will remain the third quarter of 2008.
Some other changes that would normally take effect in January 2010 based on the increase in average wages also will not take effect, even though average wages did increase. Since there is no COLA, the statute prohibits an increase in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts. These amounts will remain unchanged in 2010. The attached fact sheet provides more information on 2010 Social Security changes.
Information about Medicare changes for 2010, when available, will be found at www.Medicare.gov. The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced if there will be any Medicare premium changes for 2010. Should there be an increase in the Medicare Part B premium, the law contains a "hold harmless" provision that protects about 93 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit. Those not protected include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2010. On September 24th, the House passed legislation by 406-18 that would, on a fully paid-for basis, prevent abnormally large premium increases. The President is calling on the Senate to enact this legislation before it becomes too late for the Social Security Administration to update its computer systems to implement this needed change.
For additional information about the 2010 COLA, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
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Social Security Hearings Backlog Down for First Time in Decade
Productivity and Processing Times Also Improve
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that for the first time since 1999, the agency has ended the year with fewer disability hearings pending than in the prior year. Social Security ended fiscal year (FY) 2009 with 722,822 hearings pending compared to 760,813 hearings pending at the start of the year, a reduction of more than 37,000 cases. Over the same period, the average processing time for these cases improved from 514 days in FY 2008 to 491 in FY 2009.
"Our backlog reduction plan is working, and progress is accelerating," Commissioner Astrue said. "Even in the face of a significant increase in our workloads as a result of the worst recession since the Great Depression, we have reduced the hearings backlog for nine consecutive months. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of hardworking Social Security employees and the additional funding we received from President Obama and the Congress, we have exceeded our backlog reduction goal for this year."
To achieve its backlog reduction goals, the agency has embarked on the largest expansion in decades of its capacity to hear disability appeals. This year, the agency hired 147 new Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and 850 support staff and plans to hire 226 additional ALJs plus support staff in FY 2010. To provide flexibility to assist the most backlogged hearing offices, the agency opened three new National Hearing Centers (NHCs) in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois. The agency also has aggressive plans to open 14 new hearing offices and 4 satellite offices by the end of next year with the first of those new offices opening in Anchorage, Alaska in the next few months.
In addition to reducing the number of cases awaiting a hearing decision, the agency again targeted the oldest and most difficult cases for processing. Beginning in FY 2007 with 65,000 cases that were 1,000 days old or older, the agency has continually attacked its "aged" cases. This year, the agency targeted 166,838 cases that were 850 days or older and virtually eliminated this entire universe of cases. The goal in FY 2010 has been reset again to eliminate cases over 825 days old.
Social Security's ALJs also continue to increase their productivity. The agency averaged 570 dispositions (2.28 per day) per available ALJ in FY 2009, an upward trend that has continued for the last three years.
For more information about Social Security's hearings process and backlog reduction initiatives, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals.
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Social Security Establishes Financial Literacy Research Consortium
Research Centers Will Develop Innovative Ways to Help Americans Plan for a Secure Retirement
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the establishment of a new Financial Literacy Research Consortium (FLRC), made up of research centers at Boston College, the RAND Corporation, and the University of Wisconsin. The FLRC, supported through five-year cooperative agreements, will develop innovative materials and programs to help Americans plan for a secure retirement.
"We have a responsibility to help the public understand the role of Social Security benefits and the need for them to save as they plan for their future," said Commissioner Astrue. "Consequently, we have launched a research initiative to better inform the public about retirement saving options."
The FLRC will tailor materials for Americans at different stages of their working lives - new workers, mid-career professionals, near-retirees, and those who have already left the workforce - to address the different challenges these individuals face. The FLRC also will help traditionally underserved populations better understand the path toward a secure retirement.
"The consortium constitutes an impressive collection of expertise and resources with a deep understanding of issues related to financial literacy," Commissioner Astrue said. "We look forward to building a strong partnership with the FLRC as well as with other federal agencies with similar missions. In these challenging economic times, this partnership will help Americans to solidify their financial future."
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Statement of Commissioner Astrue Regarding Extension of Funding for Return-to-Work Programs to Assist People with Disabilities
"I want to thank Congress and President Obama for the recent passage of the WIPA and PABSS Reauthorization Act of 2009. The bill extends funding authorization for the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) and the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) programs through fiscal year 2010.
There are currently 103 WIPA programs across the U.S. working with Social Security disability beneficiaries on job placement, benefits planning, and career development. With this vital support, beneficiaries are better equipped to make informed choices about work. The PABSS program provides much-needed advocacy services that help beneficiaries navigate through an often-confusing web of Employment Networks, Social Security rules, legal issues, and employment issues. I anticipate a continuing need and increased demand for both WIPA and PABSS services, and the extension of funding allows the opportunity to further evaluate these important programs."
For more information about these programs and the Ticket to Work program, please see www.socialsecurity.gov/work.
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Social Security to Test Use of Microsoft's HealthVault in Disability Process
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that the agency has entered into an agreement with Microsoft to test the use of Microsoft's HealthVault application in the disability process. HealthVault is a free online service that enables people to gather, store and manage their families' health information, and share that information with their physicians and healthcare providers. These "personal health records" contain the same types of information that Social Security generally obtains from people applying for disability benefits.
"The use of personal health records holds great promise for ensuring that the medical information we collect from someone applying for disability benefits is accurate and complete," Commissioner Astrue said. "Combined with other advancements in health information technology, our use of HealthVault should result in faster decisions for disability applicants. I look forward to working closely with Microsoft, a world-wide leader in information technology."
Social Security and Microsoft are developing a technical prototype connecting the two organizations that will be available later this year. The agency also will collaborate with Microsoft to study current personal health record standards, gaps in those standards, and options for filling those gaps.
Social Security is a recognized leader in the use of health information technology. It is the first government agency to use the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), a safe and secure method for receiving instantaneous access to electronic medical records. The NHIN is an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services and is supported by multiple government agencies and private sector entities.
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Social Security to Fund $24 Million in Contracts for Electronic Medical Records
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the availability of $24 million in contracts to provide the agency with electronic medical records to improve the efficiency of its disability programs. Through a Request for Proposals available on www.fedbizopps.gov, Social Security is looking for health care providers, provider networks, and health information exchanges to participate in its Medical Evidence Gathering and Analysis through Health Information Technology (IT) program.
"With these competitive contracts, Social Security continues to be a leader in the use of health IT to improve service to the American public," Commissioner Astrue said. "This technology will greatly improve the speed and consistency of our disability decisions."
The contract opportunities announced today are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They will require awardees, with a patient's authorization, to send Social Security electronic medical records through the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). The NHIN, a safe and secure method for receiving instantaneous access to electronic medical records, is an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services and is supported by multiple government agencies and private sector entities.
Social Security is seeing a significant increase in disability applications as a result of the current recession. The agency expects to receive more than 3.3 million applications in fiscal year (FY) 2010, a 27 percent increase over FY 2008. To process these applications, the agency sends more than 15 million requests for medical records to health care providers. The use of health IT will vastly improve the efficiency of this process, which currently is largely paper-bound.
For nearly a year, Social Security has been successfully testing health IT to obtain electronic medical records. Disability applications processed with electronic medical records from the test sites in Massachusetts and Virginia have significantly reduced processing times.
More information on Social Security's use of health IT is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.
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Social Security Holds Compassionate Allowances Hearing on Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today hosted the agency's fourth public hearing on Compassionate Allowances. Commissioner Astrue was joined by Marie A. Bernard, M.D., Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and other Social Security officials. They heard testimony from some of the nation's leading experts on early-onset Alzheimer's disease and related dementias about possible methods for identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for people with early-onset Alzheimer's.
"This year, through Compassionate Allowances and our Quick Disability Determination process, over 100,000 Americans with severe disabilities will be approved for Social Security disability benefits in a matter of days rather than the months and years it can sometimes take," said Commissioner Astrue. "We are now looking to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes. With today's hearing, we are expanding our focus from specific rare diseases and cancers to look at subgroups of much broader conditions. Early-onset Alzheimer's disease is a rapidly progressive and debilitating disease of the brain that affects individuals between the ages of 50 and 65 and clearly deserves our consideration."
In October 2008, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security's standards. To learn more and to view a web cast of today's hearing, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
"With the aging of the baby-boomers, we are beginning to see more, younger working Americans diagnosed with this devastating disease," Commissioner Astrue said. "I want to thank the Alzheimer's Association and their staff, particularly Harry Johns, President and CEO. Their help has been invaluable and many of the witnesses are here at their suggestion. Together, we hope to identify the most severe cases that can be included in our Compassionate Allowances process."
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Commissioner Astrue Thanks the Vice President for His Call to Exempt DDS Employees from Furloughs and Hiring Restrictions
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, expressed his appreciation that Vice President Joseph R. Biden also has urged Governor Edward G. Rendell, Chairman of the National Governor's Association, to exempt federally-funded state Disability Determination Service (DDS) employees from any furloughs, hiring restrictions, and other budget cuts. Earlier this year, Commissioner Astrue wrote his own letter to Gov. Rendell expressing his grave concerns that including DDSs in state-wide reductions saves no money and, in fact, hurts the most vulnerable residents.
"I thank the Vice President for helping us make the case to Governors across the country," Commissioner Astrue said. "Social Security funds 100 percent of DDS employees' salaries as well as overhead -- that's about $2 billion nationwide this year. These funds cannot be used by the states for any other purpose, so states do not save money by cutting employees in DDSs – they only slow getting benefits to the disabled, which runs counter to what the President and the Congress were trying to do with the $500 million in the Recovery Act dedicated to accelerating disability decisions. Nevertheless, many governors are imposing across-the-board hiring freezes or furloughs that also affect DDS employees. For the good of the country, this has to end."
To read the Vice President's letter, click here.
To read Commissioner Astrue's letter, click here.
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Social Security to Open New Teleservice Center in Jackson, Tennessee
Center Will Help Agency Handle Calls from Boomer Wave
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the agency plans to open a new teleservice center (TSC) in Jackson, Tennessee, which will be the first new call center opened by Social Security in more than a decade. The Jackson TSC will employ about 175 people once it is fully operational.
"Social Security is facing an unprecedented wave of people needing our services as baby boomers retire," Commissioner Astrue said. "Response times have been improving significantly, and the new Jackson TSC will help us provide even more timely service to the 60 million Americans who call our toll-free number each year."
Social Security currently has 35 TSCs operating in locations all across the country. All TSCs take calls from throughout the U.S. and provide service via Social Security's national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Live service is available from 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More than two-thirds of the calls to Social Security's 800 number come from the Eastern and Central time zones. Jackson was chosen as the site for a new TSC because of the additional capacity needed in these time zones to handle calls. In addition, with four colleges and universities in Jackson and several others within a short commute, the Jackson area will provide Social Security with a highly-skilled and well-educated workforce.
"Social Security consistently ranks as one of the top federal agencies to work for," noted Commissioner Astrue. "With President Obama having called a new generation of Americans to public service, I am confident that Social Security will become the employer of choice in Jackson."
Social Security will be working closely with the General Services Administration to facilitate the process for opening the new TSC. The process provides for open competition and normally takes 18 to 24 months to complete.
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Social Security Continues to Rank as One of the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government"
The Social Security Administration once again ranks as one of the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government," according to The Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. In achieving its ranking, the agency scored exceptionally high in the areas of teamwork, skills-to-mission match, and effective leadership.
"I am proud that Social Security has maintained its standing as one of the top federal agencies to work for," said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. "Social Security is a can-do agency because of our hard-working and talented employees. This survey demonstrates how satisfied our employees are with their careers at SSA."
The "Best Places to Work" rankings are based on the results of the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Human Viewpoint Survey, a government-wide assessment of federal employees' job satisfaction and perceptions of their agency's human capital efforts. The survey identified teamwork and skills-to-mission match as the biggest drivers of overall employee engagement.
Social Security's winning formula is based on:
- continuing to promote, enhance, and utilize development programs at all levels;
- developing a new performance management and communication approach;
- strategically recruiting a diverse and productive applicant pool; and
- linking human capital management programs to the agency's mission.
"Social Security has just started hiring more than 10,000 new employees over an eighteen month period," said Commissioner Astrue. "I certainly hope that those interested in public service will consider joining our talented and diverse workforce."
To learn more about the report, please go to www.bestplacestowork.org.
Social Security employee Tim Evans also was a finalist for the 2009 Citizen Service Medal for his role in analyzing public feedback and making improvements to Social Security's highly-rated Retirement Estimator. For more information about this honor, please go to www.ourpublicservice.org and look for the link to 2009 Service to America Medals Finalists Announced. Commissioner Astrue said, "President Obama has pledged to make it ‘cool' again to work for the federal government. Please check out the cool work of Tim and his team at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator."
To learn more about careers with the Social Security Administration, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/careers.
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Commissioner Astrue Receives Public Health Leadership Award
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has given Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, their Public Health Leadership Award. The award was presented at the 2009 NORD Gala at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The NORD Gala is an annual event at which researchers and others are honored for significant achievements to improve the lives of people with rare diseases.
In recognizing Commissioner Astrue, NORD noted "his focus on reducing the disability backlog and improving service to the public." A key component of the Commissioner's backlog reduction plan is the agency's Compassionate Allowances initiative, a way to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that their conditions obviously meet Social Security's standards. Social Security worked closely with NORD in developing the expedited decision process which was launched in October 2008 with a total of 50 conditions -- 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers. Information about the process can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Among others being honored by NORD is Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) for "lifetime achievement in health promotion leadership and for specific accomplishments on behalf of populations that are underserved by our nation's healthcare system."
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Social Security Board of Trustees: Economic Downturn Leads to Worsening of Long-Range Financing Outlook
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The Trustees project that program costs will exceed tax revenues in 2016, one year sooner than projected in last year's report. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2037, four years sooner than projected last year. The worsening of the long-range outlook for the Social Security program is due primarily to the recent economic downturn and faster reductions in mortality than previously assumed.
In the 2009 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The projected point at which tax revenues will fall below program costs comes in 2016 -- one year sooner than the estimate in last year's report.
- The projected point at which the Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2037 -- four years sooner than the estimate in last year's report.
- The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.00 percent of taxable payroll -- up from 1.70 percent in last year's report.
- Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $5.3 trillion in today's dollars to pay all scheduled benefits.
"Today's Trustees Report contains some disappointing, but not unexpected, news about the financial condition of the Trust Funds," Commissioner Astrue said. "We should be neither casual nor hysterical about the revised insolvency dates. As with the economy as a whole, the Social Security system will weather this recession. However, the sooner we get on with the task of reforming the system, the easier it will be to make the tough choices that we all know we need to make."
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
- Income including interest to the combined Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds amounted to $805 billion ($672 billion in net contributions, $17 billion from taxation of benefits and $116 billion in interest) in 2008.
- Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $625 billion in 2008.
- The assets of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by about $180 billion in 2008 to a total of $2.4 trillion.
- During 2008, an estimated 162 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
- Social Security paid benefits of $615 billion in calendar year 2008. There were almost 51 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
- The cost of $5.7 billion to administer the program in 2008 was a very low 0.9 percent of total expenditures.
- The combined Trust Fund assets earned interest at an effective annual rate of 5.1 percent in 2008.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.
The 2009 Trustees Report will be posted at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2009/ by Tuesday afternoon.
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America's Parents Vote for Change on Social Security's Most Popular Baby Names List
Emma overtakes Emily after a 12-year reign; Elvis slips
In 2008, American parents voted for change in naming their children. After a 12-year reign as the most popular baby name, Emily has slipped to third on the list. Emma is now the nation's most popular name for girls.
The most popular boy's name, Jacob, remained the same for the 10th year in a row.
Please click on the Most Popular Baby Names link at Social Security's website -- www.socialsecurity.gov -- to see all the top baby names for 2008. Drum roll please…the Top 10 boys and girls names for 2008 are:
Top 10 Names for 2008
|Rank ||Male name ||Female name |
|1 ||Jacob ||Emma|
|2 ||Michael ||Isabella|
|3 ||Ethan ||Emily|
|4 ||Joshua ||Madison|
|5 ||Daniel ||Ava|
|6 ||Alexander ||Olivia|
|7 ||Anthony ||Sophia|
|8 ||William ||Abigail|
|9 ||Christopher ||Elizabeth|
|10 ||Matthew ||Chloe|
|Note: Rank 1 is the most popular, rank 2 is the next most popular, and so forth.|
The ascendancy of Emma means that Social Security spokesbaby Emily, who you should visit to say farewell at www.socialsecurity.gov, will be retiring. Emily indicated that she would not be requesting a recount and that she is busily preparing for nursery school. She further added, "I also ask everyone checking out this year's results at www.socialsecurity.gov to look at the nearby information about the Medicare Extra Help Program--in case they know someone eligible for Medicare who could use up to $3,900 to help pay for medicine."
A brand new feature to the website this year is the "Change in Name Popularity" page. This year's winner for the biggest jump is Khloe, which is undoubtedly related to the popularity of Khloe Kardashian from the show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Khloe with a K increased 469 spots to number 196 in 2008, up from 665 in 2007 and 960 in 2006 (her first year on the list). Also, Chloe with a C is in the Top 10 for the first time ever. Another fast riser is Miley, moving up 152 spots to number 127 for 2008, a rather impressive increase given this is only her second year on the list. On the downside for fans of Miley Cyrus' fictional character, the name Hannah fell out of the Top 10 and landed down at number 17. Jacoby had the biggest increase for the boys, moving up 200 spots to number 423. Commissioner Michael Astrue, a die-hard Red Sox fan, attributed the rise of Jacoby to the appeal of last year's star rookie centerfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury.
The name everybody is wondering about, Barack, did not make this year's top 1,000 boy's list, but it did set what is believed to be a record by skyrocketing more than 10,000 spots in rising from number 12,535 in 2007 to 2,409 in 2008. Social Security's sophisticated predictive models are forecasting an increase well into the top 1,000 for Barack for 2009.
In this year of change, many unfamiliar names debuted on the top 1,000 list. These names include Isla (623), Mareli (718), Dayami (750), Nylah (821) and Jazlene (831) to name a few for the girls. For the boys: Aaden (No. 343), Chace (655), Marley (764), Kash (779), Kymani (836), Ishaan (851), Jadiel (874) and Urijah (889). Social Security officials expressed hope that parents were not naming their sons Marley after the badly behaved dog who starred in the movie "Marley and Me." Beckham also made the list for the first time, coming in at number 893—undoubtedly influenced by the arrival in the United States of British soccer star David Beckham.
And for all of you Elvis fans out there, here's our annual update: Elvis is still shakin' at number 713, but fell on the charts from 673 in 2007.
In addition to a list of the 1,000 most popular boys' and girls' names for 2008, the website has a list of the top 100 names for twins born in 2008. Jacob and Joshua are the most popular twins' names.
The Social Security website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997.
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Statement of Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Commending the President's Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request
By requesting $11.6 billion for Social Security's administrative expenses, a ten percent increase over the previous year, the President has demonstrated his commitment to help us reduce longstanding backlogs as well as handle the recession-related work that is flooding the agency. With this support, we can continue to drive down the hearings backlog, process increasing numbers of retirement and disability claims, modernize our information technology, and improve service in our field offices and teleservice centers.
It is critically important that Congress enact President Obama's budget proposal in a timely manner so that we can make the changes that will provide the American public with better and more timely service.
For more information about the President's 2010 budget request for Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/budget.
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Commissioner Astrue and Senator Bingaman Tour New National Hearing Center in Albuquerque
Additional Funding Allows Social Security to Hire More Staff and Open Another Office in Albuquerque area in 2010
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today joined U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) for a tour of the agency's new National Hearing Center (NHC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a result of significant funding increases for Social Security over the past two years, the agency is able to open the NHC, as well as hire approximately 80 people for positions throughout New Mexico before the fiscal year ends in October. To further improve service to New Mexicans, Commissioner Astrue and Senator Bingaman also announced that Social Security plans to open an additional field office in the Albuquerque area in 2010.
"With Senator Bingaman's leadership, Social Security has received additional funding to hire and fill jobs in New Mexico and throughout the nation, as well as invest in technologies that improve service," Commissioner Astrue said. "This funding is crucial to our efforts to handle the increased workloads resulting from the economic downturn as well as the aging of the baby boom generation. Our employees are making positive strides toward driving down the hearing backlog and providing prompt service to the public. With sustained support, I am confident we can successfully address these challenges."
"Commissioner Astrue has been working very hard to address the backlog of Social Security cases, and New Mexicans are already seeing results," Senator Bingaman said. "I commend the Commissioner for his efforts, and will work to ensure he has the funding he needs to eliminate the backlog. With the opening of the National Hearing Center in Albuquerque and the new office in Rio Rancho next year, Social Security will be able to better serve local residents and those waiting for disability decisions around the country."
The Albuquerque NHC utilizes electronic video technology that enables Administrative Law Judges to hold disability hearings remotely throughout the country to reduce backlogs. Albuquerque initially will hear disability cases for Kansas City and Portland, Oregon -- two of the most backlogged offices in the U.S. Social Security's first NHC, located in Falls Church, Virginia, opened in December 2007 and has contributed to improved processing times in Atlanta, Georgia, Cleveland, Ohio and Flint, Michigan.
The agency is working with the General Services Administration on a location for a new field office in the Rio Rancho/north Albuquerque area to better serve the rapidly-growing population there. The new office is scheduled to open to the public in early 2010.
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Vice President Biden Announces $250 Recovery Payments to Go to Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries in May
Payments will inject more than $13 Billion into Economy
Vice President Joe Biden and Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that the federal government will send out $250 economic recovery payments to people who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits beginning in early May 2009 and continuing throughout the month. No action is required to get the payment, which will be sent separately from the person’s regular monthly payment.
"The Social Security Administration and Commissioner Astrue have been working closely with other federal agencies to get these payments out the door in record time and into the hands of folks who need it most," said Vice President Biden. "These are checks that will make a big difference in the lives of older Americans and people with disabilities - many of whom have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis that has swept across the country."
"We have been working diligently to issue the $250 one-time recovery payments as soon as possible," Commissioner Astrue said. "The legislation requires extensive coordination with other federal agencies and I’m pleased we are on track to issue these recovery payments earlier than the statute requires. Soon more than $13 billion will be in the hands of more than 50 million Americans."
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for a one-time payment of $250 to adult Social Security beneficiaries, and to SSI recipients, except those receiving Medicaid in care facilities. To receive the payment the individual must be eligible for Social Security or SSI during the months of November 2008, December 2008 or January 2009.
The legislation also provides for a one-time payment to Veterans Affairs (VA) and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) beneficiaries. The VA and RRB will be responsible for paying individuals under their respective programs. However, if someone receives Social Security and SSI, VA or RRB benefits, he or she will receive only one $250 payment. People getting Social Security or SSI should not contact the agency unless a payment is not received by June 4, 2009.
For more detailed information about the $250 one-time economic recovery payments, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/payment.
To learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, go to www.recovery.gov.
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Social Security Administration Receives Top Marks
Agency Named Top Government Employer by Equal Opportunity Magazine and Receives Top Ten Ranking in 2008 Employee Survey
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been named the top government employer by readers of "Equal Opportunity Magazine." The magazine annually asks readers to name the public and private sector employers for whom they would most like to work or that they believe would provide a positive working environment for members of minority groups.
"I am honored SSA is at the top of this list," said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. "President Obama is calling new generations of Americans to public service. They can read this survey and know that a career at SSA is the right choice."
Equal Opportunity Magazine is a career-guidance and recruitment magazine distributed to African American, Hispanic, Native-American, and Asian-American college students and professionals in all fields, including engineering, computer science, technology, finance, business, healthcare, liberal arts, and education.
SSA also has received high marks from its employees in the 2008 Federal Human Viewpoint Survey. The survey focuses on employee perceptions regarding critical areas of their work life, areas which drive employee satisfaction, commitment, and ultimately retention in the workforce. SSA received especially high marks from its employees for Job Satisfaction and Leadership and Knowledge Management, ranking among the Top Ten federal agencies in both categories.
"Our workforce is one of our greatest strengths," Commissioner Astrue stated. "Despite the many challenges the agency faces, our employees continue to serve the American public with determination, empathy, creativity and integrity. This survey confirms that they embrace these challenges and have confidence in the course we are setting for the future."
The Job Satisfaction index indicates the extent to which employees are satisfied with their jobs. Questions include: do employees think their jobs are important, enjoy the work they do and feel personally fulfilled by their service to the American public? The Leadership and Knowledge Management index indicates the extent to which employees hold their leadership in high regard. Questions include: do employees have a high level of respect for their senior leaders and do managers communicate the goals and priorities of the organization?
To see the annual ranking of the Top 50 employers by Equal Opportunity Magazine, go to www.eop.com/eotop50.html.
To see the results of the 2008 Federal Human Viewpoint Survey, go to www.fhcs.opm.gov.
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Commissioner Astrue Signs President's Ethics Pledge
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced that he has voluntarily signed President Obama's Ethics Pledge, an action required only of new political appointees in this Administration. Commissioner Astrue was confirmed by the Senate in 2007 for a six-year term.
"I gladly signed President Obama's Ethics Pledge because I strongly support the President's view that we serve only the interests of the American people. As the President has stated, ‘The American people deserve more than simply an assurance that those who are coming to Washington will serve their interests. They also deserve to know that there are rules on the books to keep it that way. They deserve a government that is truly of, by and for the people.'"
To view a signed copy of the pledge, click here.
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Social Security's Online Services Continue to Win Accolades
Agency Sweeps Top Three Spots in National Survey
The Social Security Administration's online services have earned the highest overall score in the most recent e-Government Satisfaction Index. The Index, which is administered by ForeSee Results in conjunction with the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), also gave three of SSA's applications the highest scores in government. In a separate survey, Nextgov, a website devoted to technology and the federal government, listed www.socialsecurity.gov as one of the top five federal websites in its review of best online practices.
"We are committed to providing the best online services in government, and these accolades are proof that the public appreciates our efforts," said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. "Whether it's our Retirement Estimator or our online benefit applications, Social Security is continuing to offer new and improved eServices."
The ACSI shows that public satisfaction with government websites has never been higher, and Social Security's website is a major factor in that success. While the federal government's overall average score is 74 out of 100, SSA's overall score was 79, the highest in the federal government. SSA's Retirement Estimator (www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator) scored an 89. The online retirement application (www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline) and the online Medicare Extra Help application each scored 87.
In recognizing the SSA homepage, Nextgov consulted web experts in government and academia and also did its own research and web browsing. Its report noted that Social Security "paid careful attention to what their users wanted to see and do online. With its applications consistently besting the top performers in the ACSI quarterly surveys, it's clear the Social Security Administration is doing something right with its Web site."
"The secret to socialsecurity.gov's popularity is its intense process for testing applications with real users before launching," Nextgov's report continued. "Members of the SSA customer satisfaction team continuously evaluate feedback they receive on their applications and conduct user testing before launching applications."
Finally, Nextgov noted that "information is categorized under easy-to-understand section headers. From a business standpoint, the simplicity of socialsecurity.gov is a smart move."
For more information about the ACSI, please go to www.theacsi.org, click on "Scores and Commentary," and then go to "Government Satisfaction Scores."
For more information about Nextgov's report on Social Security, please go to www.nextgov.com/nextgov/bestpractices.php and click on "SSA."
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Statement of Commissioner Michael J. Astrue Concerning the American Federation of Government Employees' (AFGE) Advertisement Regarding the Employees' Activities Association (EAA)
"For nearly two decades, the Social Security Administration has entered into no-bid, no-audit contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to one well-connected organization, the Employees' Activities Association (EAA). That era is over.
The EAA has stubbornly stonewalled our efforts to conduct an audit of its activities and the activities of its secretive for-profit subsidiaries. AFGE's officers have responded to our efforts to ensure that federal laws and policies are followed by repeatedly threatening political retaliation against me and members of Social Security's career civil service.
The American public is demanding honesty, transparency, and compliance with the law. I will continue to uphold these principles regardless of the inaccurate attacks that stance generates.
I have asked Congress to direct the Government Accountability Office to do the full audit that the EAA has thus far resisted.
I also want to thank the Social Security employees who first blew the whistle on the EAA, and I want to assure them that we will continue to stand by them."
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Commissioner Astrue Asks Governors to Exempt State Disability Determination Service Employees from Hiring Restrictions
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, in a letter today to Governor Edward G. Rendell, Chair of the National Governors Association, urged states to exempt their Disability Determination Services (DDSs) from hiring restrictions and furloughs. The DDSs are state agencies that make medical determinations for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability claims.
"I am compelled to write to you to express my grave concern over the hiring restrictions and furloughs that some states are employing," Commissioner Astrue said. "Each month, SSA provides over $11 billion in Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits to more than 12.1 million citizens across the nation. We could not provide these vital benefits to some of the most vulnerable people in our society without the DDSs' work."
Social Security funds 100 percent of DDS employees' salaries as well as overhead -- about $2 billion nationwide this year. These funds cannot be used by the states for any other purpose, so states do not save money by cutting employees in DDSs – they only slow getting benefits to the disabled. Nevertheless, many governors are imposing across-the-board hiring freezes or furloughs that also affect DDS employees.
States receive significant benefits from the operation of the DDSs. The faster SSA approves claims for benefits, the sooner many disability applicants move from state to federal support. In addition, the salaries for DDS employees funded by SSA reduce unemployment levels in the states.
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Social Security Expands Fast-Track Disability Processes
More than 100,000 Disabled Applicants Get Quick Decisions
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that improvements to the agency's computer modeling system have increased the number of claimants receiving expedited approvals for disability benefits. Social Security's two-track system -- the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process and Compassionate Allowances -- is now fast-tracking about 4 percent of all disability cases, a sharp increase from the 2.7 percent of cases fast-tracked last year.
"In practical terms, this means that this year 100,000 to 125,000 disabled Americans -- those with the most severe disabilities -- will be approved for benefits in about 10 days instead of waiting the three to four months it typically takes for an initial decision," Commissioner Astrue said. "These initiatives are truly a lifeline for those who need it most."
Under QDD, a predictive computer model analyzes specific data within the electronic file to identify cases where there is a high potential that the claimant is disabled and where Social Security can quickly obtain evidence of the person's allegations. Through Compassionate Allowances, Social Security expedites the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security's standards. These fast-track systems increase the efficiency of the disability process and also help free up resources so the agency can better cope with an increase of about 250,000 cases resulting from the current economic downturn.
"During these tough economic times, getting Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits quickly to Americans who are unable to work helps them and strengthens our economy. For SSI recipients, expedited approvals also ensure they immediately get the vital medical coverage they need," Commissioner Astrue said. "It is critical that we continue to embrace innovative technologies in order to improve the services we provide to the public."
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Commissioner Astrue Praises President-Elect Obama's Call for a National Conversation on Social Security
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, welcomed news reports that President-elect Barack Obama wants to begin discussions on the future of entitlement programs, including Social Security.
"With all the other challenges President-elect Obama is facing, it would be understandable if he were to defer decisions on Social Security for a period of time," Commissioner Astrue said. "He is showing true leadership in starting this process earlier rather than later, and everyone at the Social Security Administration stands ready to support this effort in every way we can."
Today's Washington Post reports the President-elect:
"...pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare 'bargain' with the American people, saying that the nation's long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs."
That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a "fiscal responsibility summit" before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.
"What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," he said. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."
Commissioner Astrue, who has led the agency since February 2007, is confirmed to a term that expires in January of 2013.
In its 2008 report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds, Commissioner Astrue and his fellow Trustees indicated that, without changes, the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2041 and there will be enough money to pay only about 78 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits after 2041. The Trustees urged resolution of the issue soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations.
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The Cousins Are Back and They're Filing Online for Social Security Benefits
Patty Duke Reprises Patty and Cathy Lane for new Retire Online Campaign
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, and Patty Duke, Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy winning actress, today unveiled Social Security's new online retirement application and launched the agency's Retire Online campaign. Featuring cousins Patty and Cathy Lane from the hit 1960's sitcom, "The Patty Duke Show," the campaign will let Americans know that it's now easier than ever to retire online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
"Social Security's new online retirement application can be completed in as little as 15 minutes from the comfort of your home or office," Commissioner Astrue said. "Filing online means there's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. I'm thrilled that Patty Duke has volunteered to help us promote retiring online."
"Like millions of other baby boomers, I like to spend time with my grandchildren, travel or just relax with a good book. And I love the convenience of doing things online," Ms. Duke said. "Social Security has made applying for retirement benefits online easier than ever before. So when you decide to retire, apply online for Social Security benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov. It's so easy!"
To apply, go to www.socialsecurity.gov and click on "Applying Online for Retirement Benefits." You will be asked a brief series of questions about you and your work. Need to look up some information? You don't have to complete the application in one sitting. You can stop and restart the application without losing any of the information entered. Have a question? There are convenient "more info" links that you can click on to get an answer. And when you're done, just click the "Sign Now" button to submit the application. There are no paper forms to sign, and usually no additional documents are required. If more information is needed, Social Security will contact you.
"To meet the needs of Patty and 80 million of her fellow baby boomers, who are becoming eligible for retirement at a rate of 10,000 a day for the next 20 years, Social Security is developing a wide range of online and automated services," Commissioner Astrue said. "In addition to our new online retirement application, and other services like our new Retirement Estimator, the highest rated online service in government, we are continuing to expand and improve our Internet service options. These services will help us provide the American public with world-class service for generations to come."
To see a demonstration of Social Security's online retirement application and to view the new public service announcements featuring Patty Duke as cousins Patty and Cathy Lane, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pattyduke.
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